I’m telling the truth when I say I’m leaving Italy with some “pasta babies” located on the thighs, hips, love handles and even one clinging around my mid-section. I’m relying on the heat and walking in Morocco to abort all the “pasta babies”.
I first started growing my pasta babies during our month visit in Lanciano which meant eating at a buffet for 99% of the meals, and I think we all know what buffet eating leads too. My pasta baby situation only got worse when Chris and I headed to northern Italy to visit my dear friend Christine who is currently studying abroad. Her university program has her living in three different countries this year: France, Italy and Spain. We were lucky enough to catch her in Piacenza, Italy.
I met Christine 10 years ago, in Lanciano Italy, on my first day of Grade 10. We were sitting next to each other at the back of the bus. I had just turned around from waving goodbye to my parents and brother Geoff and was trying to hold back tears from the fright of being alone in boarding school, when Christine tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had a pen and paper. With that, our lifelong friendship began.
Piacenza is a 45-minute train ride from Milano. 95% of the population own and ride cruiser bicycles, nearly all of them are equipped with baskets and/or saddle bags. It is not an uncommon site to see people, of all ages, biking home with their basket full of the parmaggiano and fresh vegetables from the market.
The town centre has a youthful, vibrant energy even though the buildings and streets are thousands of years old. The main piazza is a wonderful piece of architecture. The facade of the main building has numerous arches. If you look closely at the detail, each design is entirely unique. The main basilica is modest compared to most with a facade made of brick, but inside its high vaulted ceilings with dark oil paintings hold a beauty that we new world people can never get enough of.
Every day in Piacenza, we woke-up around 11:00, made multiple espresso’s and a luxurious breakfast consisting of Italian eggs (which by the way have the most incredibly rich tasting yokes I’ve ever tasted in my life. Apparently some chefs will refuse to make a recipe if it calls for Italian eggs and they can’t get any!) Anyways for breakfast we also enjoyed yogurt, tomatoes, apples, oranges and bread. We talked for hours. Went on casual walks and almost daily we did grocery runs, for food was our main objective.
Christine loves cooking and we love eating. Every lunch and dinner Christine, with a little bit of support from us and Jamie (the guy who wrote the fantastic cook book she used for at least 10 of the meals we ate) would create meals that made our toes dance with happiness and our bellies swell with the pride of a king. Without any exaggeration, every lunch and dinner contained garlic, basil, olive oil, wine, salt, pepper and tomatoes. 95% of the time the base of the meal was pasta: penne, tortellini and linguini. The pure rich flavour of the pasta alone would be hard to match with brands bought in Safeway. The other 5% of the time we ate the most mouth watering home-made pizza.
Everything was from scratch, even the dough. Christine’s sore shoulders from the relentless kneading can attest to this. This flavourful dough was made with flour #zero which is specially produced for pizza and may be hard to find in regular grocery stores in Canada, so head to your nearest “Little Italia”. Each pizza had simple and few toppings. I believe this helped us appreciate the texture and taste of each bite. I hope these photos give your belly the slightest ping of hunger, for none of them do Christine’s fantastic, tasty cooking the justice it deserves.